What is Typical Flight Attendant Pay?
I am interested in learning more about flight attendant pay. Can you tell me what a typical flight attendant salary is? Am I paid by the hour or for each flight flown ? Thank you for your time.
Flight Attendant Pay – Part II
As mentioned in the previous issue, job performance has virtually no impact on flight attendant pay. You are expected to work at a high level and will never receive a bonus or promotion of any kind, even for exemplary service. This may seem a little strange to you, especially if you have spent a portion of your life in an office building trying to climb the corporate ladder. On the positive side, since pay is tied directly to seniority, you will receive guaranteed annual pay raises; they are built right into the contract. As a new-hire, you might even receive a mandatory pay raise after only 6 months of employment, immediately following the probationary period. Another positive aspect of unionized labor is that it eliminates much of the jealousy and biases that surround compensation in corporate America.
As a flight attendant, you will never hear someone say, “I wonder what they are paying him?, or “I know they are not paying me what I’m worth because I’m a minority.” After all, seniority determines pay, which cannot be influenced by human prejudices. On the negative side, however, you are essentially at the mercy of the labor contract and have no negotiating power as an individual when it comes to compensation. If you believe you are underpaid, you cannot exactly walk into your supervisor’s office and ask for more money. Instead, you must rely on your union representatives to stand up for you – and every other flight attendant who works for the airline – during contract negotiations.
Since you cannot negotiate flight attendant pay at your interview, be sure to choose an airline that makes the most financial sense before accepting employment. You will want to choose an airline that is in an active hiring mode. This will help you gain seniority more quickly, resulting in better pay. You should also choose an airline with competitive pay rates. Granted contracts change every 3 to 5 years, but typically frugal airlines stay frugal and more generous ones stay generous. If you want to make the most amount of money, stick to the major airlines.
To a certain extent, any flight attendant can simply peruse the labor contract to determine what a fellow employee is earning. After all, if you know someone’s date of hire, you can easily determine their hourly rate; it is in the contract! You must realize, however, that although flight hour base rates are fixed, actual monthly income can vary even between flight attendants with comparable seniority. Additionally, the number of flight hours a flight attendant chooses to fly in a given month has a dramatic affect on income.
Beyond the hourly base rate and per diem rate, there are many other ways to make money as a flight attendant. For example, if you are the lead flight attendant or a language speaker (LOD/O) during a given trip, you will usually receive additional pay – typically an extra $1.50 to $2.50 per hour. Flight attendants who work international flights are also often paid a higher rate. Extra pay is also given to flight attendants in the ‘A’ position, or ‘lead’ flight attendants.
Many airlines also pay premium rates to flight attendants who work at certain “less desirable” times of the day, week or year. For example, flight attendants who work at night or on certain weekends and holidays are typically paid a premium rate. At some airlines, flight attendants who work certain holidays are paid a rate equal to time and a half. So, for example, if your base rate is $19.05/hr, it would jump to $28.58/hr!
From a scheduling standpoint, you are also sometimes allowed to earn extra money by flying more than the legal monthly flight hour limit. This is sometimes referred to as being on a flight hour option. You could elect, for example, to be on a 95-hour or 105-hour option. This could mean an extra $400 – $800 per month or more – not counting per diem. Flight attendant pay at the big three airlines (American, United and Delta) is typically among the highest in the industry. Although first-year flight attendant pay averages around $20,000, a senior international flight attendant at one of these major airlines, working maximum allowable hours with over 25 years of experience can earn over $100,000 per year!
If you are real ambitious, you could also earn additional income by getting a management position as a supervisor, instructor, or interviewer. You could also consider a union-related position. Most of these positions will compensate you with a flat salary or credit you with more flight hours than a regular lineholder (e.g., 105 hours versus 85 hours), which equates to higher pay.
Also associated with pay is the income you may receive from any profit-sharing or stock option programs offered by your specific airline, not to mention the monetary value of the travel benefits you will receive.
Some of the airline websites, like Skywest Airlines, list flight attendant pay scales, so be sure to research this information before you decide where to apply.
For more comprehensive information on flight attendant pay and benefits, scheduling, unions, minimum qualifications and many other informative topics that will help you evaluate your suitability for a flight attendant career, download our Kindle eBook, “Is a Flight Attendant Career Right for You?.”
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